The hint, though conveyed thus tenderly and modestly (as Caroline thought), was felt keenly and comprehended clearly.

‘Indeed, I only think—or I will only think—of you as my cousin,’ was the quick answer. ‘I am beginning to understand things better than I did, Robert, when you first came to England: better than I did a week—a day—ago. I know it is your duty to try to get on, and that it won’t do for you to be romantic; but in future you must not misunderstand me if I seem friendly. You misunderstood me this morning, did you not?’

‘What made you think so?’

‘Your look—your manner.’

‘But look at me now—’

‘Oh, you are different now. At present I dare speak to you.’

‘Yet I am the same, except that I have left the tradesman behind me in the Hollow. Your kinsman alone stands before you.’

‘My cousin Robert, not Mr. Moore.’

‘Not a bit of Mr. Moore. Caroline—’

Here the company was heard rising in the other room; the door was opened, the pony-carriage was ordered, shawls and bonnets were demanded. Mr. Helstone called for his niece.

‘I must go, Robert.’

‘Yes, you must go, or they will come in, and find us here; and I, rather than meet all that host in the passage, will take my departure through the window; luckily it opens like a door. One minute only—put down the candle an instant—good-night. I kiss you because we are cousins, and being cousins—one—two—three kisses are allowable. Caroline, good-night!’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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